Joseph, Pharaoh, and the Perpetual Stranger

Parashat Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) This year, as is often the case, we read Parashat Mikeitz on Shabbat Hanukkah, a celebration of light that affirms the durability of our Jewish identity during periods of assimilation and even oppression. In one such period—of assimilation in the United States and of genocide in Europe—Muriel Rukeyser spoke about the gift of being a Jew: To be a Jew in the twentieth century Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse, Wishing to be… Read more

Lighting Up the Darkness One Good Point at a Time

Parshat Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) By Cantor Ken Richmond As someone who, by nature of my profession, has the privilege of leading my congregation in prayer on a regular basis, I have long taken inspiration and instruction from a quote from the Hasidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who said in his teaching “Azamra”: …The one who can create these melodies by finding the good points in every Jew… is fit to be the prayer leader. The leader of the communal prayers must… Read more

Are these blessings really mine?

Parshat Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43) By Rabbi Leora Abelson Not long ago, a young man approached me in the parking lot of the synagogue where I serve as the rabbi. He wanted permission to park his car in our parking lot overnight. He would be sleeping in his car. It felt safer than parking somewhere more public, he said. The man had lost his home in the California wildfires and made his way to Massachusetts, where he had hoped… Read more

When the Holy One is a No-Show (Parshat Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

By Rabbi Jordan Braunig, Rab`14 Perhaps the most memorable words from this week’s parasha, Parashat Vayetze, are the oft-quoted words of Jacob, who having awoken from a holy vision of a ladder connecting the heavens and earth says: אכן יש ה במקום הזה ואנוכי לא ידעתי Surely Adonai was in this place, and I…I didn’t know it. The line is in some ways the quintessential expression of spiritual awakening. Eyes are opened to a new world of metaphysical possibility, and… Read more

Bringing the Personal into the World

Parashat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) By Rabbi Becky Silverstein When people hear that I am a twin, they tend to immediately ask,  “are you identical or fraternal?”  Upon seeing us, it is clear that we are fraternal. The next question people ask is “who is older?”  And sometimes they will follow up with, “which one is the good twin?” The answers to these questions are linked—I am older because my sister is the bad twin. Just before we were born, my… Read more

To be a Stranger and Resident

Parashat Chayei Sarah (23:1-25:18) Bu Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann Toward the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, Abraham describes himself to those with whom he lives with the phrase, “ger v’toshav anochi imachem, I am a stranger and a resident among you” (Gen. 23:4). Various Jewish commentators have interpreted this self-description as much more than just a statement about Abraham’s relationship to his immediate neighbors in the context of purchasing a burial plot for his dearly departed wife, Sarah…. Read more

Crisis Parenting: Walking Together Through Bitter and Sweet

Parshat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24) By Rabbi Shira Shazeer Last week, my four-year-old announced gleefully, “It’s almost Kislev!” He is joyfully anticipating the next Jewish month because of my personal custom to declare the holiday-free month of Mar-Cheshvana family-wide post-holiday sugar detox. My son’s excitement makes perfect sense – except that it is only the second day of cheshvan. I answer somewhat incredulously, “It’s almost kislev?” “Yes,” he says, “Only twenty-eight days!” Somehow, what is for me a necessary moment of… Read more

The Torah of Beginner’s Mind

By Rabbi Mónica Gomery Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis: 12:1-17:27) The day after I became a rabbi, I taught a room full of men how to sing the alef-bet. The men in the Jewish Spirituality Group at the Essex County Jail, where I served last year as the Jewish chaplain, had requested I teach them some Hebrew. And so, on Sunday I was ordained, draped in a tallis and called rabbi for the first time in front of hundreds of people, and on Monday I… Read more

Where Is God in the Flood?

By Rabbi Avi Stausberg Parshat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32) In the beginning, there was nothing. When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth being unformed and void. Except, that’s not exactly true. Because there was something. There was darkness, and there was wind, and there was water. A lot of water. God separated water from water, creating an expanse in between and God gathered all the lower waters together, and dry land took form. God called the… Read more

What is Written in the Book of Human Begettings?

Parashat Bereishit (Genesis, 1:1-6:8) By Rachel Adelman, Ph.D. As the saying goes: “All beginnings are difficult.” We are reading Bereshit, “In the beginning…,” again. It is the start of a New Year and I am filled with the tentative joy and trepidation of Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. Just at the opening of the gates at Kol Nidrei, I stood with my three-month-old granddaughter, Naomi Tzipora, in my arms—my daughter and son-in-law by my side—filled with hope and awe, holding our… Read more

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